Threshold: Art in Times of Crisis

When 11 Sep 2020 - 30 Nov 2020
Where Performa
100 West 23rd St., Floor 5
New York, NY 10011
United States


To reach a threshold means to hit a limit, to come to a boundary or a place where you can no longer carry on or move forward, unless you can find a way to cross the threshold. In science, threshold means that a magnitude or intensity must be exceeded for a chemical reaction to occur; thus the threshold must be breached in order for physical change to occur. Culturally, thresholds are often catalysts for moments of change, at times in which social or political situations are no longer tolerable. How we get to that threshold—be it a personal or collective one—is more often than not hastened by moments of crisis, trauma or great difficulty. Although painful, shocking, and sometimes unbearable, these experiences can lead to enormous personal change or seismic social transformation.

We are currently living through an unprecedented moment of global upheaval. The ongoing world-wide pandemic has not only destroyed enormous numbers of human lives, but also caused political, economic, and social consequences across the globe as each nation has dealt with the same problem in a different way. In some parts of the world the same virus has been addressed through the lens of politics, often at the expense of science, creating vastly differing results in respective countries. In America, the decisions made to manage this crisis are divided between states, and are heightened by economic inequality — therefore the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Latino populations. The police brutality that has occurred in parallel has led to widespread protest against the institutional racism and inequity that pervades America. Thus, a medical problem that began in China means something radically different inside America’s social and political systems.

This turbulence, and the differing perceptions and reactions to this turbulence, raises the question: how does one make art at a time like this? Whether faced with war, genocide, displacement, civil unrest, political oppression, environmental disasters, racial, ethnic, sexual and gender violence, or pandemics of catastrophic dimensions, in the last century, artists have responded to crisis in thoughtful and powerful ways, creating work that critiques the horror, explores the political and social environments that give rise to it, reveal the cultural forces at play, and also offers a place of reflection, mourning, and healing.

Influential novelist, playwright, essayist and activist James Baldwin wrote: “The purpose of art, is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.” Art of this nature—that deals with the difficult, complex, traumatic experiences—can be easy to celebrate and easy to criticize or dismiss as didactic. The subject matter is so fraught, so painful, so deeply political, so divisive, and so personal for so many people, that it can be hard to ask questions of it as an artwork. Yet ultimately the artwork, like the threshold, moves you past a place of discomfort and reveals something you couldn’t see before.

Daily 24/7 Schedule, 8th September – 30th November 2020

9am – 10am; 6pm – 7pm, 3am – 4am: Yoko Ono, David Wojnarowicz, Gran Fury, Mykki Blanco/Zoe Leonard
10am – 11am, 7pm – 8pm, 4am – 5am: Shirin Neshat, Lee Bul
11am – 12pm, 8pm – 9pm, 5am – 6am: Martha Rosler, Walid Raad, Rabih Mroué
12pm – 3pm, 9pm – 12am, 6am – 9am: Carrie Mae Weems, Yael Bartana, Artur Zmijewski
3pm – 4pm, 12am – 1am: Kara Walker, Kota Ezawa, William Kentridge, Glenn Ligon
4pm – 6pm, 1am – 3am: Nicole Miller, Studios Kabako (Faustin Linyekula)** Note that all times are based on your own time zone; in other words, according to the clock on your computer screen.

Feature Screenings

These feature-length films will be screened on dedicated days, on Performa’s Radical Broadcast Channel, 27 and Thursday 29 October: United in Anger: A History of Act-Up, 2012, Jim Hubbard

Tuesday November 3 and Thursday November 5: Swinguerra, 2019, Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin Burca

Tuesday 10 and Thursday 12 November: Tania Libre, 2017, Lynn Hershman LeesonMetrograph Screening

Feature-length film will be screened on Metrograph Live,

Tuesday 13 of October: Black Power in America: Myth or Reality?, 1987, William Greaves, in partnership with Metrograph

For more information please click here.

Image courtesy of the event organizer.